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First, a little background. I am not a mechanic, nor am I exceptionally knowledgeable about engine repair, and certainly not restoration or replacement. I have a moderate level of experience with automotive repairs and know my way around a toolbox. I have little limitation in finance and time. Now, for my question.

Essentially, I'm just wondering how possible/practical it is to fully restore a somewhat older vehicle. And i don't mean an engine rebuild. I mean literally remove every piece and replace it with a new one. Every. Little. Piece. Regardless of price/time constraints, is it possible to do this? To literally have an old body/frame but entirely new vehicle?

If so, what are some potential difficulties/issues that may be present? How much would a project like that generally cost? Any tips or recommendations you might have for me as far as brands and such go? 

Thanks all for taking your time to help me out!

*Note: For some context/additional information, I'd like to complete this project on an old 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport


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Morales...I like it and am biased!  We have a 1999 Jeep XJ Cherokee.  My wife and I both believe in recycling or restoring a vehicle if the design and intrinsic worth of the vehicle is clear.  I believe that a 1998 Jeep XJ Cherokee Sport is clearly that vehicle!

Why?  When AMC/Jeep designed the XJ Cherokee and launched that compact SUV in 1984, the vehicle was groundbreaking.  I was actively in the midst of a 4x4 journalism career, and by 1987 had the opportunity to test the new 4.0L EFI upgrade of that 4x4.  The design and components in the XJ Cherokee have proven superior to most other makes and models, and the testimony is the XJ's typical 200K-250K lifespan without major work—if simply maintained properly and not abused.

This is a vehicle that benefits from a variety of well designed components, many shared with the Jeep Wrangler.  By 1991, with Chrysler's input, the XJ Cherokee had an advanced 4.0L engine, and that engine still benefits from the original 1964 AMC 7-main bearing OHV design at its core. An inline six is inherently balanced and robust in this configuration.  The Nissan 240Z/260Z and 280Z were legendary for their reliability, too, also benefiting from 7-main bearing inline six-cylinder engines.  Or you can use the Cummins 6BT and ISB engines in Dodge Ram and Ram trucks as an example.

Then there are the transmissions in the 4.0L 1998 XJs, either the AX15 manual or the Aisin AW4 automatic used by Toyota and others as well.  Our 4.0L XJ's AW4 has 170K miles on the transmission with only routine filter and fluid changes.  It works flawlessly, as does the proven NP/NV231 transfer case.  The Dana 30 front beam axle is also very rugged, especially for this lightweight uni-body vehicle.  The XJ weighs about the same as a YJ or TJ Wrangler yet boasts a utility body and ample interior space.

I prefer the 8.25" Chrysler rear axle in our non-ABS 1999 model, though many get reliable service from the Dana 35 axle found in ABS models.  The vehicle is piece by piece reliable, sturdy and long duty cycle stuff.  The items that need close scrutiny would be the unitized body, wiring, gauges, switches and other electrical items.  Rust would be totally unacceptable at the heavy gauge sheet metal chassis!

Is this vehicle good material for restoration?  Yes.  Parts are less expensive due to the enormous volume of these vehicles built.  Basics like brakes, unit bearing hubs and any engine driven accessory or tuning need are typically inexpensive by comparison—and still readily available!  The aftermarket has paid reasonable attention to the XJ Cherokee, so there is much personalizing possible.  The inline six makes the vehicle very tractable off-pavement as long as you protect and do not damage the uni-body.

How much to restore such a vehicle depends upon the initial condition.  I would throw out a figure of $10,000-$12,000 (not including labor) to thoroughly renew the vehicle if you mean the use of quality rebuilt as well as new parts.  Body work, paint and electrical work are always the wild cards.  The easier to predict parts costs would be the powertrain, axles, transfer case, cooling system, exhaust, brakes, steering and the driveline work.

We bought our XJ around 2006 with 94K miles, paying $5600 for it.  Aside from the 6-inch long arm lift, oversized tires, axle upgrades to ARB Air Lockers and 4.10 gears, SYE and CV rear driveshaft, custom wheels, aftermarket bumpers and a winch, all of which are elective, we likely have around $800 in parts and restorative/preventive maintenance parts in this vehicle as we approach the 170K mile point. I perform all work on the vehicle, so labor is not included!

We do need front seats/upholstery, and the paint could stand a refresh, but this has been one of our most inexpensive vehicles, in real dollars, to maintain.  I am happy with the XJ Cherokee and plan to continue the preventive and restorative maintenance on this vehicle.  Diagnostics, troubleshooting and repair work/overhaul are more accessible on this vehicle than any other modern model.  It's a winner if you don't mind a utilitarian vehicle with a hood prop rod!




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